5 pre-pandemic albums that speak to COVID-19 culture

Rene Anderton, Contributing Writer

2020 sent many plans into disarray. Everything became more challenging. Many turn to music to soothe the burn of the world. While new content that could distract us was not released as quickly as before several albums released prior to 2020 tapped into the exact struggles many are facing right now. Five in particular stand out as top contenders for albums that could have been released this year.


Released in June 2018, the London-based band’s fourth studio album hits on themes such as love in the face of adversity, bittersweet homecomings, climate change fears, and trying to cope with feeling helpless against your own vices. At its core, “High as Hope” is a reflection of a coming-of-age story which had passed long ago. The moments Florence Welch looks back on when she wrote the album are reflective of the moments listeners may look back on to when they first heard the album.


  1. HOZIER – “WASTELAND, BABY!” (2019)

While many of the albums featured hurt, Andrew Hozier-Byrne created something of comfort with his sophomore album, “Wasteland, Baby!” In his interview with NPR about the album, he said was his intent. “[There is] something that’s in the kindness, the warmth and capability of humanity, even in the last imagined moments, to still issue a squeeze of the hand,” he said. Speaking of humanity’s enduring kindness, regardless of one’s opinion on the validity of its existence, is comforting during a time when many feel incredibly isolated.



The 1975 has never shied away from showing its darker side. “A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships,” the first half of their two-album “Music for Cars” project, looks into the ugly parts of dependency on technology to replace human companionship. One of the first singles, “Love It If We Made It,” succinctly sums up the album’s overarching theme with one line: “Modernity has failed us.” Further along in the album is the spoken-word track “The Man Who Married a Robot,” which tells the story of a man addicted to the internet who relied on it to act as a replacement for human contact. The entire track is done using the voice of Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant. In 2020, the internet had become a large conduit of human contact, even if only through video chats and phone calls.


  1. BASTILLE – “DOOM DAYS” (2019)

Bastille has long been practiced in the art of making an album befitting a dance club while also having emotionally charged lyrics. “Doom Days” was the London quartet’s first official venture into a concept album. “It’s an apocalyptic party album,” lead singer Dan Smith said in a tweet preceding the record’s release by over two years. With lyrics such as “Don’t look outside / The world is ending” in the EDM-based track, “Million Pieces,” the album is a fitting soundtrack for the lockdowns still happening around the world. 



Arcade Fire’s album “The Suburbs” might have turned 10 in 2020, but it feels just as fresh as it did the day it came out. One of the songs that rings the truest to 2020 is “The Month of May.” In an interview with NPR, songwriter Win Butler said the song was about May being the time of year during which the people of Montreal begin to emerge from their homes after the winter. This May was also the first time many left their homes. But they were not emerging into spring; they were bursting into protest. Many of the protests regarding George Floyd’s death began in May, and the lyric, “The month of May, it’s a violent thing; in the city / Their hearts start to sing” is a fitting line that summarizes the feelings of leaving a quarantine in order to protest injustice.